Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Joy and Pains of Gardening by Kristina Hughes, Clear Creek County Master Gardener

I spend a lot of time in the garden, working. My colleagues are mostly middle-aged women and our bodies start to show wear and tear part way through the season. This season has barely started and I'm already feeling aches and pains, so I'm going to make more of an effort to take care of my body. I thought I'd share some of the techniques I've used in previous years as well as some new ideas to help my body, and hopefully yours too, withstand the pains that come along with the joy of gardening.

Knee protection
A lot of people use foam mats for kneeling on the ground. They are effective but I find them awkward to keep track of as I move around the garden. I prefer knee pads. I put them on once and then I don't have to think about them again, they just follow me. I like the very simple, inexpensive foam knee pads with one simple velcro strap.

Tool belt
After observing professional horticulturists in places like the Denver Botanic Gardens, I started experimenting with tool belts. I've seen lots of people who seem to be happy with a simple belt that will accommodate pruners and maybe one additional tool.

I love my current tool belt with three large pockets which hold pruners, hand rake, hori knife, folding saw, and mini loppers with room for miscellaneous items (string, weeds I want to identify, anything else I want to carry around). I could probably fit a small cat in my tool pouch!

Since I started using my tool bag, I no longer lose my tools in the garden! How many of you can say that?

And this helps my body because I can spend my energy completing garden tasks  rather than searching for lost tools. Overall I am using less energy to accomplish the work.

Mini loppers 
The long hours of gardening have strained my dominant, right hand. When I use my small pruners to cut something bigger or tougher than is recommended, my hand and wrist take the strain. So I try to remember to respect the limits of my tools, but I don't always succeed. 

I have found a tiny lopper that will cut things my hand pruners shouldn't. Since I'm using both hands to operate the mini loppers, I'm not straining and twisting. And it fits in my large tool belt.

A colleague recently suggested trying left-handed pruners, to alternate the work load  across both sides of my body. I've also learned of ambidextrous pruners, which can be used with either the right or left hand, and ratcheting pruners, which can make big cuts using little effort. I'm going to explore these options this season and see how they feel.

I love working in the garden, helping beautiful spaces to be more beautiful, and I want to continue as long as possible. For me, being honest about the impact on my body is leading to some deliberate thought about healthy practices. I hope that sharing some of what I've learned can help you to minimize the painful parts of gardening and maximize the joyful parts.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Sedums at High Altitude?   Solution: Container Gardening. by Lorrie Redman

Sedums! I wish I could write a jingle about them since they are some of my favorite container plants. It would start with (remember to sing this!) star flowered, succulent, eccentric and chubby. Ok, I admit I am not a poet or songwriter. What I do know is how relatively simple and interesting these plants are to grow.

Sedums are used by gardeners as waterwise, poor soil, low maintenance outdoor plants. Unfortunately, some sedums are not suitable for mountain gardens. At altitude, when planting outside, we are limited to planting sedum plants that are in zones 2-4. In reality, most sedums fall into zones 4-9. This limits our ability to purchase the large variety we see in the plant stores.  The solution to this dilemma is to plant higher zone sedums in containers. Then we may enjoy these plants all summer on our decks then bring them in for the winter.  

Quick Tips on Container Sedums
  • Sedums that are brought indoors over the winter months are best placed in a south facing window with bright light.
  • Sedums use cactus and succulent soil mixes. They thrive when their soil environment is not too wet or soggy.
  • Sedums require water when establishing roots the first year, but once established their water needs are in the red zone (1-3 zone) on your water meter. They are water smart!
  • Sedums prefer containers that are porous and unglazed. They need air for their roots and the containers need to let moisture escape. They are a great way to reuse your old terracotta planters or give you a reason to build your own hypertufa pot. Sedums love the counterbalance weight of hypertufa pots and the rough surface to grip onto.   
  • Sedums are relatively pest and disease free so long as they are not overwatered.  

The following are five Sedums you can plant either outdoors or indoors in the mountains:
S. acre (Goldmoss)                
S. album (White stonecrop)
S. divergens (Spreading stonecrop)   
S. spurium (Two-row stonecrop)
S. kamtschaticum (Kamschatka stonecrop)

With Sedums in containers you are not limited by zone, water or seasons.
You can be tempted by that fun plant in the nursery and bring it home!  

For more information on sedums for the mountains and foothills please refer to the following CSU fact sheets:
Ground Covers and Rock Garden Plants for Mountain Communities #7.413
Ground Cover Plants # 7.400
Plant Talk : Sedums #1046

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Junior Master Gardeners in Routt County by Jo Smith

Summer of 2017 will mark the third season of the Junior Master Gardner program. In collaboration with Routt County Master Gardeners and the Yampa River Botanic Park, four Junior Master Gardening workshops will be offered for 3rd through 5th graders. The Junior Master Gardener program was developed by Texas A&M Agri Life Extension Service. It is modeled after the successful Master Gardener program and offers horticultural and environmental science education through fun and creative activities. The program is committed to helping young people become good gardeners and good citizens so they can make a positive contribution to their community, school and family. Participation in all Junior Master Gardener sessions (8 total) with a community service component, qualifies a student to become a certified Junior Master Gardener. The Routt County program offers 4 workshops each summer. 

In 2016, ten junior gardeners enjoyed learning about gardening in Routt County. Four workshops were held during the summer on Saturday mornings at the Trillium House at the Yampa River Botanic Park (YRBP). Students could attend any or all of the sessions. Earlier in the spring, the YRBP had constructed a raised bed specifically for this program. This small garden is located in the Children’s Garden section at the north end of the park. At the first workshop the participants planted the raised bed, toured the gardens and learned how to keep a garden journal. In the second workshop, the kids experienced the ongoing tasks of maintaining a garden: fertilizing, weeding, and managing pests. The third workshop focused on insects in the garden with a great presentation from the Routt County Bee Keeping Association. During the last workshop, the students harvested the garden and learned how to save seeds, dry and arrange flowers, and how to preserve garden produce.  Six Routt County Master Gardeners along with Gayle Lehman, YRBP manager, provided instruction and insights into gardening in the valley.  Students enjoyed the workshops and several attended all four sessions.  Ruth Peterson of Hayden was awarded the Junior Master Gardener certification at the end of the summer as she had attended, over two summers, all 8 workshops. 

New sessions for Junior Master Gardening will be offered summer of 2017. Participants will once again design, plant, tend and harvest the Junior Master Gardener plot at the park. In addition to the garden, students will learn how to identify plants, what organisms are found in a garden ecosystem, and how to maintain and harvest a garden. All workshops include short informational components with accompanying hands on activities. Participants at each workshop take home a project to extend their learning. Sessions will be held June 10, July 1 and 22, and August 5.  Each workshop is 3 hours: 9 am to 12 noon. 

 The Junior Master Gardener program is a great way to get kids interested in gardening. The program is open to Routt County residents. Registration is at the CSU Routt County Extension Office, 136 6th St. Steamboat Springs, CO. Sessions require a $12 materials fee. A snack and water are provided.  Sessions are limited to 12 participants .

Jo Smith is a member of the 2013 class of Routt County Master Gardeners. She is a retired biology teacher and enjoys the kid and gardening connections in the Junior Master Gardening program.